Spotlight on… Sadiya Khan, Owner & Founder of SK Solutions

This week’s contribution to CargoForwarder Global’s ‘Spotlight On…’ series which highlights the many different roles involved in ensuring that cargo flies from A to B safely, efficiently, and on time, centers on an important, ancillary function: bringing out the best performance in air cargo teams and individual employees. Sadiya Khan (SK) shares her insights to her job, how she came to the industry, and what advice she has for anyone considering a career in air cargo.

Passionate about unlocking the power of human and business performance. Image: Sadiya Khan

CFG: What is your current function? And what are your responsibilities?

SK: I am the owner and founder of SK Solutions – a business whose aim is to take the Air Cargo and Logistics industry to the next level when it comes to people and business performance. SK Solutions is all about unlocking individual, team, and organizational potential through 1:1 and group coaching, business consulting and targeted training. Backed by 20 years of industry and senior leadership experience, as well as professional coaching qualifications, my responsibilities include partnering with companies to fully uncover what’s holding their people back from achieving their goals. I get very excited about designing and delivering effective solutions to boost performance. I feel very privileged and grateful to help individuals to amplify their performance and unlock their talent as well as collaborating with businesses to create a culture where people can develop and flourish.

CFG: What does a normal day look like for you? Or is there such a thing?

SK: There’s no such thing as a normal day really. I speak to businesses and heads of companies about their current challenges and think creatively about how we can solve them together. For me, it’s not just a tick-box exercise. I am keen to always be effective in what we do. I coach individuals through personal and work challenges to empower and enable them to take charge, take responsibility and move forward. I create and design programs and games to boost team performance. I deliver workshops online, in person and abroad. I chat with fellow coaches and partners to exchange knowledge, bring ideas to life, and see how we can make the world better through what we do together. I read, write, and research. I log on to complete the modules for the course I’m usually doing for personal and professional growth. I complete admin. I eat (too many cashew nuts), go for a walk, and do some fitness training. I do the laundry, pick up the kids from school and empty the dishwasher!

CFG: How long have you been in the air cargo industry, and what brought you to it?

SK: I’ve been in air cargo for nearly 20 years, having first fallen into it by chance. After my postgraduate degree in International Management, I landed a job with Virgin Atlantic and spent a year in passenger marketing. A commercial analyst role then came up within the cargo department. I applied and there it all began! I was very lucky to be part of a growing team and extremely fortunate to work with some awesome minds. I feel very fortunate for the opportunities and the people I met along the way. We worked through the rough and the smooth together and cemented our friendships over the years with good memories. It was in these early years of my career that I learned the value of great teams and the power of coaching, active listening, and empathetic leadership.

CFG: What do you enjoy most about your job?

SK: My job allows me to meet and have conversations with lots of incredibly interesting people. Through open and thought-provoking discussions, I get to access new ideas, collaborate on challenges and propose solutions that can really make a difference to how people feel about their work, and also in their lives. I am fascinated by human behavior. What makes us tick and how we can get the best out of ourselves is the theme for the research I do throughout my week. I really believe that we all have gifts and talents, and with greater self-awareness through reflective practice, we can define these with clarity and feel the benefit of the confidence that ensues. When people know who they are, what they want and why they are doing it, they can show up at full power and consequently businesses become unstoppable. I feel incredibly privileged because my work enables me to spend time doing something I am passionate about – unlocking the power of human and business performance.

CFG: Where do you see the greatest challenges in our industry?

SK: I have no doubt that if digitalization is done right, it will bring efficiency gains and better customer experience to our industry. However, given the nature of the business, there will always be a place for conversation and discussion. Ensuring that the people in our organizations are top priority through the challenging and changing environment is what will give a business the edge. When people feel supported, are given the knowledge they need and feel safe to contribute, then rock solid teams are formed. As an industry, we can sometimes suffer from short-termism – looking at the next flight, the next 3 months, the next season. The challenge for our industry is to refocus on the long term and to think about building great places to work through recognizing that people are the spine of it all. Companies that invest in their people early will be the unshakeable organizations for the future.

CFG: What advice would you give to people looking to get into the air cargo industry? Any particular training they should aim for? 

SK: For people curious about air cargo, I would say just get involved, do some research and see what happens. Gravitate towards what interests you and connect with people in those roles. The best way to learn is to try. Ask questions…lots of them! Be curious. You just never know… you might be the first one to ever ask it… and it might just change the business for the better. Thinking about when I first entered the industry and what would have helped me, I decided to create a 2.5-hour training course to give a birds-eye view of how air cargo works. Having delivered this for a few years now, participants often say that seeing things from an end-to-end perspective can be a great first look as an overview to then choose where to dive deeper. Fear prevents change and stifles action, so the best thing you can do is take a deep breath and apply for something that piques your interest. There are so many options in air cargo that I’m sure you’ll find something to light your inner spark as you go along your career journey… and don’t stop until you do.

CFG: If the air cargo industry were a film/book, what would its title be?

SK: The title would be ‘The Greatest Secret’. I fell into the air cargo industry, and then fell in love with it. If I hadn’t stumbled into it by chance, who knows where I would be now! It seems like our industry is a very well-kept secret as I hadn’t even realized that it was available as a career option. If we want our industry to advance, we need to attract even brighter minds into it, so we can do even greater things. It’s time to share the secret and let everyone know that air cargo is available for business and is an exciting career option where you can most definitely find something that you will be GREAT at!

Wonderful! Thank you, Sadiya!

If you would like to share your personal air cargo story with our CargoForwarder Global readers, feel free to send your answers to the above questions to cargoforwarderglobal@kopfpilot.at We look forward to shining a spotlight on your job area, views, and experiences.

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